Archive for the ‘USU’ Category

My friend Karen is a hoot and a half.

We first made each other’s acquaintance in 2011 when I was the editor in chief of USU’s student newspaper. Karen sent me a sternly-worded email expressing her displeasure with a photograph we had chosen to publish in connection with a fundraiser held by her boyfriend’s frat.

The image, which featured a young woman with her legs around the waist of a young man fist-pumping in time to whatever sick jams the hired DJ was spitting, was deemed by some in the Greek community as an intentional, calculated maneuver to discredit the image of these fine, upstanding, campus leaders due to my personal prejudices against fraternal and sororital groups.

In actuality, the photo was selected because it was indicative of the event – a dance party – and was one of the more tasteful images we had gathered during the evening. As for my personal bias, I only had ill feelings toward a single house on USU’s Greek Row, which was not the fraternity in question.

I did my best to explain this to Karen and the issue was mostly settled, as today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s birdcage liners. But for the remainder of the semester Karen I stayed in sporadic contact; she letting me know about upcoming news from the Greeks and I using her insight into an area of campus life foreign to me as a makeshift focus group.

In the years since, Karen and I have often debated politics, philosophy, religion, pop culture and any other myriad number of subjects. I value her opinion and insight immensely, and in fact she has been kind enough to read through an early draft of my novel to provide feedback (a labor of love, I assure you).

And yet, Karen and I have never spoken face to face.

We ran in different scenes in college and, after graduation, I scooted off to an internship in New York City while she headed to Wisconsin to be a librarian. Thanks to the wonderful world of Facebook in which we know live, we may as well be neighbors.

Karen isn’t the only example in my life of a relationship that is primarily digital. Among my 600-odd Facebook friends are many who began as acquaintances but, one “like” and comment at a time, have become indispensable members of my social circle.

For example, in 2010 I spent a week in Georgia at a conference for college newspaper editors. There were a few dozen of us, pulled from schools all over the country, and we spent our days immersed in the study of our shared profession and our nights bar-hopping around Athens.

It was one of the most memorable weeks of my life, and though I effectively haven’t seen any of my colleagues since, we nonetheless keep in touch and come together in an online forum from time to time online to discuss the changing state of our industry.

In today’s world, you can go months, even years, without exchanging so much as a sentence with a particular human being, but with one mouse click Facebook notifies you that “John Doe likes your post,” and you know that connection remains.

Most people, I imagine, have experienced this as most people are now on one form of social media or another. That is why it’s so hard for me to understand the stigma that continues to hang over online dating, since the central concept is the same. If a friendship can be built and maintained online then why not love?

It’s also what makes the constant failure of online dating so frustrating, as most of my attempts at a conversation are either never answered or flame out over the space of two to three days.

But the obvious difference is time. It took two years of slow, incremental progress for Karen and I to become bona-fide friends, whereas most of the articles I’ve read on online dating (and my own experience) suggest that after you “meet” your eJuliet you need to suggest a meeting IRL relatively quickly before they lose interest and move on to the next hazel-eyed brunette with a college degree who enjoys folk music, Thai food and embroidery.

Case in point, Melanie, who I was obliged to friend on Facebook after receiving the following message:

So I have an interesting story for you! It’s an epic story with twists and a surprise ending!

This past weekend, a girl I know passed away. This morning, I wanted to find out more details about the accident, so I went to [a website I contribute to] and guess who was the author of the article?! 🙂

Here’s the part where it takes a turn.

First off, great article! I also really enjoyed your blog [ed note: Uh-oh] and flipping through your FB pictures! You never mentioned that you are in a band! [ed note: I wouldn’t exactly call One Wood Uke a “band”] These are the kind of facts you wanna broadcast if you’re really trying to impress a girl!

Now, it’s generally understood that everyone Facebook stalks each other. I mean, real talk, that’s what the website is for. But still, acknowledging it flat-out seems like a breach of social protocol, especially when it affects what I can write on my blog.

But it’s mostly a moot point. After accepting my friend request I didn’t bother continuing our conversation on OkCupid, plus I was out of town with limited internet capability. When I returned to society I had the following message from Melanie in my FB inbox:

“So what’s the deal? We become friends on Facebook and stop talking?”

Apparently, yes. But who knows, in two years we could be thick as thieves.

In other news, I’m beginning to think the initial excitement of Tinder is wearing off, leaving only the sad a depressed or the sexual predators as users. My two most recent “matches” include a woman named Kyra whose tagline says “I’m looking for a one night stand” and Lisa, who mere seconds after matching with me initiated the following conversation:

Lisa: Hi! Have we chatted before? 24/female here…you??

Me: Don’t think so. 26.

Lisa: I’m sorry…I get to be forgetful at times!! How’re u??

Me: No worries. I’m good. How are you?

Lisa: Just got out of the shower…..crazy week been working a lot! But I’m feeling naughty!! So what’s up….wanna have some fun?? 😉

Lisa: I want a guy that can make me [explicit sexual phrase] Have you ever made a chick [use your imagination]?? Hahaa

Me: Can’t say I have

Lisa: Gonna change my clothes…..wanna see? 🙂

Lisa: Want to play on webcam?

Me: I don’t have a webcam

If you’re wondering why I was still responding at that point, it was for academic purposes, natch, I am a blogger after all.

Lisa then proceeded to send me the url for a webcam website where, if I filled in my credit card information, I would be able to enjoy a nice conversation with her about the Socratic method and Plato’s analogy of the cave. She assured me the credit card was just to verify that I was an adult and that I wouldn’t be charged a dime.

Which basically brings us to the present after a mostly non-eventful month. My niche online dating service (hint: it’s not DatingWithHerpes) continues to be an abysmal failure, and to make matters worse I’ve reached the end of my 6-month prepaid period, meaning I know get a nice monthly withdrawal from my checking account to be rejected by women.

If I’m learning anything, it’s that free dating sites offer services as good, if not superior, to paid sites. That may not be true for higher-profile entities like eHarmony or which, if the commercials are to be believed, employ an army of statisticians to painstakingly introduce you to the next love of your life.

What’s more disheartening about my niche online site (hint: it’s not EquestrianCupid ) is that of my 4 services it’s the one I’m failing the most at. I’ve so far stuck to my quota of initiating at least one conversation a week but am sad to say the last time I received a response was June 4.

I’ve updated my profile, I’ve added pictures, but the scientific method would suggest I’m a lost cause. Unbeknownst to me, there must be something about my smile, the way I style my hair, or the way I answered the 6 things I can’t live without that is a secret female code word for “deranged sociopath.”

As the mutants on table 9 and I have come to realize throughout our lives, we simply have nothing to offer the opposite sex.

Or, maybe it’s just that I’m a writer.

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I’ve always been partial to Autumn as a season: the mild temperatures, the gorgeous scenery, the flexible wardrobe. As a result of that preference, or perhaps as another contributing factor, the back-to-back awesomeness of Halloween and Thanksgiving is by far, in my opinion, the superior holiday season of the year.

Sure, Christmas is quaint, but its squeaky-clean “true meaning” hardly compares to the party potential of dressing up as witches, ghouls and other monsters in a Pagan ritual to scare away demons and ensure a bountiful harvest. Plus, people give you candy, lots of it.

I also come from a family that celebrates the quirky and the offbeat, so the macabre-light of All Hallow’s Eve is the perfect excuse for us Woods to fly our freak flags (A full-size model skeleton is a permanent fixture in my childhood home. It wears a necklace of fruit, naturally).

But, as much as I love Halloween I have to admit that I have never been one to put an excessive effort into the design of my costume. Typically speaking I elect to craft some menagerie of common household items into a passable visage.

For example, I remember that for years I was the Grimm Reaper, which consisted of wearing a black cloak and holding a plastic scythe that we already had. By the end of a night of trick-or-treating I would shed the scythe, and then the cloak, leaving just a 10-year-old kid in jeans and a black t-shirt. “I’m a homicidal maniac” I would say, quoting Adam’s Family Values. “They look like everybody else.”

Speaking of Adam’s Family, after I shaved my head in the 6th grade it dawned on me that with my trusty black cloak, I could pull off a decent Uncle Fester. My mom applied the makeup, I borrowed a fake severed hand from the annual decorations and voila!

My mom’s ability of face painting is the most effort that I ever put into anything back then. My stunningly awesome Darth Maul costume (again, the black cloak and a foam light saber that I had made to have duels with my cousins) only required that I sit on a stool for about 30 minutes and give my mother a big hug afterwards.

In my Jr. High years I began to think a little differently about Halloween. I couldn’t explain it at first, but looking back now I know that I was reaching the paradigm shift where a Halloween costume is not about accurately depicting a character, it’s about looking hot. The scales finally fell from my eyes at my 8th grade Halloween Dance, when it became very apparent that, although awesome and time consuming to create, my head-to-toe Duct Tape Man costume gave off a distinct, and strong, odor of adhesive that girls found difficult to dance next to.

As a result of this, I went as Neo from The Matrix for the next two years. Which required only a black trench coat, a skin-tight black t-shirt that showed off my abs (I was in the best shape of my life back then, as sad as that is to say) and a pair of sunglasses.

For the remainder of high school, Halloween was all but monopolized by the school dance, which was girl’s choice…moving on.

In college I stuck to my tried and true method of choosing a costume. That is to say, waiting until the last minute and then throwing together some shabby nonsense. My first year, I bought a plastic cape from Dollar Tree and decided that was enough to make me a vampire. The next year, I just asked my mom what costumes she had that would fit me, which resulted in me strutting my stuff in some very tight bell-bottoms and a denim shirt with rainbows on the collarbones.

Heck, I’ll say it. I looked hot. Mission accomplished.

But then, finally, I cracked the code. Of all my costumes, through all the years, I have never been more proud of myself than my Junior year of college when I filled the role of the King of Clubs in a four man team. The idea was my friend Trevor’s and it was brilliant on two fronts. First, the basic concept was clever and not overdone. Second, it fulfilled the cheerleader effect, which states that an individual always looks cooler when they are part of a group.

That was the apex of my costuming. The next year I reverted to my old M.O., raiding my closet for a makeshift rendition of Professor Plumb. Sure, it was a group costume, but my heart wasn’t in it.

That was a great year on the non-costume front, however. Since my friends all studied respectable subjects in college like science, or engineering, we got access to a building on campus after-hours, trucked up a bunch of lovesacs and couches and watched a Horror movie on a projector screen.

That was also the first year I attended a live screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A night of good memories in its own right, further helped by my friend Cody showing up in both drag and full beard. Off-putting yes, but awesome.

The last two years have been difficult. As a newly graduated intern/entry-level employee, work has come before play, impeding my ability to ensure a bountiful harvest by ridding my village of malicious beings from the dark realm. Not that my All Hallow’s in NYC last year was a total bust. I was able to attend the annual parade in the Village (wish I had pictures, frowny face) and I watched two girls get into a full-fisted knock down drag out at a White Castle I stepped into after a screening of PA3.

But if there’s one thing Halloween is about, it’s about hope and bringing loved ones together. Even while I sit at my desk at work tomorrow night, my heart will be out there on the streets with the hooligans, street youths and other miscreants pulling off their shenanigans. I know that soon, if not next year, I’ll be enjoying the faint scent of artificial blood and prosthetic, the stomach ache brought on by a pillowcase full of candy and the inhibition-less chaos of our modern world.

Merry Halloween everyone.

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I don’t remember much of my life before age 5. Even if I did, it wouldn’t really change the fact that for almost all of my life the end of August has been attached, inexorably, to the advent of a new school year.

With the exception of those pre-5 years, I had exactly one year, 2011, when the academic calendar was irrelevant to me. But now I’m employed as an education reporter for a daily newspaper, and while I may not have worried about what clothes I’d be wearing or whether I would see my friends, I was still keenly aware of the first day of school.

Valley Elementary School (1992-1999)

My education began at Valley Elementary School, home of the Bulldogs. I never went to pre-school (fancy that) so my first experience with an organized classroom was Mrs. Day’s kindergarten class. I don’t remember much. In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure my teacher’s name was Mrs. Day.

I remember learning about Bill Clinton in first grade. I remember getting in big trouble in second grade for attempting the Heimlich maneuver on a classmate who wasn’t choking. I played the Mouse King in a 3rd-grade production of The Nutckracker and blew the performance out of the water. One critic said my portrayal of the King’s rise to power and eventual fall captured, effortlessly, the duality of man and the fragile nature of life…I may be paraphrasing.

I remember that even back then I wanted to be writer. I used to craft these pathetic short stories and submit them to a yearly Jr. Author’s Fair that Valley put on. If you wrote something for the fair, you got free pass to the Seventh Street Skating rink which, at that age, was pretty much the best motivator I could fathom.

Remember skating rinks? Everyone would get their passes from the fair and the whole school, or so it seemed, would be there on the same night. Seventh Street had a doughnut and hole track and all the guys would hang out in the center ring and dare each other to go and skate with the girls. Few did, fewer still lived to tell the tale.

In fifth grade we had a talent show. My friends Blake, Trevor and I did the dance to the original Men In Black theme song (“Just bounce with me, Just bounce with me”). We’d practice at my house after school.

After our performance, Blake had a second talent, singing “Truly, Madly, Deeply” with a couple of other guys. Even at 11 years old I thought that was kind of stupid.

Sixth grade was my last year at valley. We terrorized our teacher, Mr. Hull. People are monsters, and children are just little people.

Snowcrest Jr. High (1999-2002)

Snowcrest, home of the Skyhawks (not an actual bird) is a small school. At the time there were around 350 students, or just more than 100 per grade. It was a great place to go to school. Valley was the only feeder elementary so we truly did know everyone and I remember it as one big party.

Because of its size, Snowcrest didn’t have much in the form of elective courses. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every student had to choose between taking a music class or taking Spanish. I’ve never had any desire to learn Spanish and it had always been a dream of mine to play the saxophone (“There’s so many Buttons!”) so I signed up for band along with most of my friends.

I only wore the hat once, but I always wore something (cue sarcastic, “duh”). Over time the tradition started for the saxophone line to all wear sunglasses to a performance (“So I can, So I can”). We thought we were really, really cool.

We really, really weren’t.

My other elective (ok, you got 2) was drama. In Jr. High there was nothing wrong with being in Band and Drama. In high school I luckily learned that things were different before making a huge mistake. Every year we’d put on a melodrama. I was on track to be The Villain in 9th grade and Trevor was to be The Hero, but then Trevor dropped out to go to some alternative pseudo-homeschool and our drama teacher had some sort of stress attack and stopped putting on melodramas.

Suddenly I had a hole in my extracurricular so I decided to run track. I did the 110-meter hurdles and threw disk.

I wasn’t very good, but I had long hair and wore a headband and it was shortly after the Salt Lake City winter Olympics so people called me Apolo (as in, Anton Ohno). It’s the only nickname I’ve ever had. I loved it.

I played rec football since our school was too small to have a team. I was a defensive linemen. I wasn’t very good at that either, but I rocked at the saxophone.

If you remember my last quarter century post, I started Jr. High with atrociously-awful parted-down-the-midle hair. Luckily around 8th or 9th grade I was able to start moving past that and emerge from my cocoon like a beautiful butterfly, or at least a not-as-creepy-gross-as-some moth.

Weber High School (2002-2005)

We had a tradition when we were kids. The night before the first day of school we would lay out our next day’s outfit on the floor from shirt to shoes in the shape of a person. I don’t remember when it started but I was little, the only picture I have of this weird practice is from my Sophomore year.

I didn’t break the habit until college, when I decided that my roommate would probably think I was a lunatic.

But I digress. Weber High School, home of the Warriors and nestled in picturesque North Ogden which, if you’ve never been there, is actually a terrible place. It’s a 5A High School, the largest classification in Utah public ed, so I went from knowing everyone in a 350-student school to a 1,600-student school where everyone seemed to know everyone except me.

I drifted away (quickly) from band and drama and instead got into the student government scene. My junior year campaign was my best (and the one that I actually won) helped in no small part by my mom’s amazing ability to make awesome posters (note, we fixed the typo on the Matrix design).

Student Government is a complete joke, but we had a good time. Luckily, I lost my senior year election so I’m under no obligation to plan a reunion.

I ran track for two years at high school, but it became increasingly apparent that I was not going to grow taller than 5’10”, couldn’t compete with guys taller than me and was never very good to begin with. When I finally threw in the towel I put my extra-curricular focus into the Future Business Leaders of America which pretty much consisted of traveling to various competitions around the state and trashing hotel rooms.

My big thing was Entrepreneurship and while I still wrote for the school paper (and a Teen Section in the local daily) I had forgotten about being a writer and instead thought of myself as some wunderkind who would create a business and make boatloads of money. Never mind that I had no idea what that business would be or what product I would sell; business classes don’t teach you HOW to make money, they just teach you that if you don’t make money you’re worthless.

I graduated with honors, which besides meaning absolutely nothing when applying for colleges allowed me to wear a very fetching yellow rope around my neck. Totally worth the hours of AP homework and never having a girlfriend.

Utah State University (2005-2011)

And with that, we made the move to Logan for Utah State University, home of the Aggies. I lived in the dorms my first year, which is an experience I think everyone should go through because of how simultaneously awesome and awful it is.

I made some classic freshman mistakes. I had a 7:30 class, I would actually get dressed in the morning, I ate nothing but pop tarts and Eggo waffles.

We lived in the top floor of the Alva C. Snow hall, which we nicknamed Alva Heights and Greek-ified into Sigma Alpha Eta as an inside joke about how stupid fraternities are. We use to do this thing in the elevator where someone would yell “Go Ninja!” and you had to jump up onto the walls and keep your feet off the floor. We also had this running gag where we would stash bottles of rotten things in other dorms.

We were SO cool!

We also invented the “Tool Dance” which consisted of holding your hands above your head and side-stepping past an open doorway.

I lived with some friends from High School but after a few months adopted myself into an apartment down the hall. There were two Bens, two Daves and two Zachs so we implemented a numbering system to tell everyone apart in conversation. Dave 2 continues to be designated as such in my cell phone.

I started out “undeclared” trying to decide between business and journalism. The conflict was a classic one, a choice between love and money. By my sophomore year my mind was made up, I registered as a JCOM major and kept a business minor so my credits wouldn’t go to waste. I hated my business minor, every class was an hour of self-congratulation for being better than the rest of campus and pontification about the free market and the spirit of enterprise. Never mind the fact that most of my classmates couldn’t name the Vice President and, as far as I could tell, had never read a book.

Things were great on the journalism side. I got an in at the campus paper as an opinion columnist, which turned into news reporting, which turned into features editing and finally editor in chief. I had an office, a desk, a campus phone line and a key to the student center. I was a king, and it didn’t go to my head at all.

My friends started getting married, having kids, having SECOND kids. At the same time the list of people who wanted me to graduate and go quietly into the night got bigger. I loved Logan, I love Utah State, but when my four (six) years were up it was time, and I was ready, to go.

So I did.

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“As soon as you’re born you start dying, so you might as well have a good time.”
— Cake

Quick note on that picture: weird right? That’s me at the slender age of 18. I don’t have many digital copies of old photos so be prepared for me to be rolling out some randoms over the course of this project.

I was born on January 6, 1987. At home in the coat closet there’s a folder with my name on it with newspaper clippings from that day that my mom kept. I’m pretty sure the front page story of the Ogden Standard was about someone dying. It was either a criminal act or an accident, I can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure the picture was two bodies being loaded into an ambulance in grainy black and white.

From my own research, the day before I was born President Reagan underwent prostate surgery and just a few days earlier Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Respect!

I’ve said it a hundred times but I don’t really care for birthdays. The realist in me sees it as an unnecessary combination of arbitrary factors (365 days = 1 year…apparently) which amount to the observation that a person has gone a certain amount of time without dying. The cynic in me sees a pointless exercise trying to romanticize the fact that X years ago I was screaming and covered in disgusting human goo and that I am now X years away from old age and senility and I’m once again screaming and covered in human goo (the ciiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiife). My introverted self doesn’t like the attention and my jaded self dismisses birthdays as “lame” simply because everyone else seems to make such a big deal about them. To be fair, though, the capitalist in me LOVES getting presents.

Still, part of the reason behind my essential indifference to birthdays is that growing up, my family just didn’t make a very big deal about them. We weren’t the “birthday party” kind of children to lord our social status over our peers with blow up-toys and hired clowns. Birthdays in the Wood home meant a couple of presents and then dinner at the restaurant of your choice, which I thought was awesome. As I got older and desired more expensive presents, my birthday and my Christmas would often lump together for more spending power so January 6th was just another day with a slightly better meal. And I was fine with that.

In theory, I’ve had 25 birthdays (you know, not counting THAT one) but I only remember 4 or 5. The earliest one was when I was 3 or 4, I received a battery-powered toy car and I turned it on on top of my sister’s head, sucking her hair up into the wheels. I think we had to cut it out.

From there it’s pretty much an murky, non-specific pool of “memory” until the most recent years. This year I saw Stick Fly on Broadway and went out for drinks with some friends (sidebar: best thing about abstaining from alcohol. I still get to hang out and and enjoy the “scene” but I don’t pay a dime. It’s very economical. Plus being the sober observer of a room full of trashed millennials is all the entertainment you could ask for). Last year, 24, I was snowboarding, eating Brazilian food and watching Scott Pilgrim (not all at once) and it also coincided with an eye-opening epiphany (don’t ask). The year before that, 23, I was in Huntsville with the girlfriend and the parents and had my first burger from the Shooting Star (SO GOOD!).

New graph because that’s getting long. The year before that, 22, I kept my birthday a secret and went on a date, ice skating. The girl was a tertiary objective, I really just wanted to go ice skating for my birthday but it seems weird to go alone. The next two, 21 and 20, I have no memory of but the last one I do remember, the creme de la creme of birthdays was the big 19. I was a freshman at USU and had come back to Logan early during Christmas break so I was alone in the dorms. I had no idea what to do but then I turned on the TV and realized that a Firefly marathon on SyFy was just begging — Jackpot! I spent the whole day in front of the TV in solitary bliss with absolutely no feelings of unproductive guilt because there was nothing else I was supposed to be doing, it was perfect.

A pic from freshman year, for good measure. Yes, those tips are frosted.

That’s essentially it. Somewhere in the middle there I was legally old enough to drive and of course there were the puberty years (I guessed I suppressed those better than I thought). So, now I’m 25. I’m squarely in my mid-twenties. Gross.

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*Suggested audio accompaniment for this post. Click here.

My year began on the roof of The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas which, if I do say so myself, if a pretty decent way to ring in the new. As I write this, it is unseasonably warm in New York City which is ironic because exactly one year ago it was unseasonably cold in the city of sin. We sat by the side of the pools, enjoying the view of the Strip below, laughing and joking with revelers and huddling together for body warmth.

Six days later I turned 24, which I still have a hard time believing. For the longest time my residual self-image was a geeky 17-year-old kid with acne and while I have admitted to some aging, I still see myself as a 21-year-old in peak physical condition. *Sigh*

I hate birthdays, always have, but love that mine always happened to fall within Christmas Vacation because it allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do during the day with as minimal human contact as possible. I decided that for 2011 I wanted to go snowboarding, eat Brazilian food and then watch Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I would post a picture here of me on a snowboard but despite my incessant nagging, Tyler Barlow (who purports to be technologically inclined) has YET to upload them. Fail.

2011, I expect, will be notable in my memory for two reasons: my quarter-life crisis and, similarly, my graduating year at Utah State University. It was the year that saw my transition from rabble-rousing student journalist at The Utah Statesman to starving journalist desperate for work in the daily grind. I went from the editor in chief of a publication, responsible for keeping a steady hand on objectivity while still shining a light on the conversations that the community at large had — and would try to — silence to an intern, scrambling to make any noticeable impression I could between shifts of sorting mail (*note, I never had to sort any mail at The Des, I was extremely well-treated there).

I think I’ll remember 2011 for the stories I wrote, as well. It was the year that I went to Sundance, declared war against the sense of social entitlement at USU, covered the sentencing of Brian David Mitchell, got a statement from the family of a murdered Salt Lake woman and interviewed Bruce Campbell. I stood in crime scenes and red carpets, press conferences and press screenings. I also saw Wood’s Stock hit 1,000 monthly readers, which makes me very proud.

In other student news, I returned to Vegas for to see The Aggies win the WAC championship and lost quite a bit of money on the roulette table (I would say the amount but my mom reads this blog and she hasn’t heard that story yet). No regrets, though. I relayed for life and helped raise thousands of dollars for Cancer research and finally scratched “crowd surf” off of my bucket list at the Hare Krishna festival of light.

Then I graduated, alongside some of my closest friends.

As far as personal growth, I kept my m.o. of falling out of contact with nearly everyone in my life during transitions periods. Admittedly Facebook makes keeping up the appearance of friendship easier, so thanks for that one Zuckie. So, to all of you out there who haven’t heard from me in a while, I’m sorry and just remember that even though I hate phone calls I’m still thinking about you, value our time together and hope you’re doing well.

Also, I’m either maturing — or becoming more introverted, funny how similar that can be sometimes — because most nights after I get home from work I just want to take it easy, read a book, watch some tv and fall asleep before midnight. I’ve managed to compartmentalize my need for diversion to the weekends which is, I think, a healthy thing to do. As a sidenote, I’m halfway through the book I’m writing that I planned on finishing during the summer, then during November, then by January and now by March. Progress, nonetheless.

I lived in 3 different cities this year. Three apartments for a combined total of 8 different roommates. In Logan it was Tony that didn’t wash his dishes, in Salt Lake it was everyone but me, Al and Will and in Queens it’s Jared who, by the way, blew his nose 30 times this morning. Yes, I counted and yes, it was an even 30. I’ve needed a reading lamp since May but I don’t want to buy anything until I’ve “settled.” Right now I don’t care where I live, I just want a reading lamp, a gym membership and some potted plants.

I hate to skim over the last half of the year but it’s too fresh. I’ve seen Broadway shows (best, How To Succeed, worst, Spiderman by a long shot) and concerts, (special shout out to Carbon Leaf, The Decemberists and Ted Leo) gone to world-famous museums (The Met, no contest) and landmarks. I’m working at my “dream” job where I watch endless amounts of movies and tv and interview celebrities but at the cost of my other dream of having enough living space to do pushups in the morning and a front lawn large enough to hose the mud off of my mountain bike (two more items missing from my life, the bike itself and the activity for which it attracts the mud), oh yeah and I really miss driving. And in theory, I’m supposed to meet someone and get married at some point and since my name isn’t Woodstein I’m not sure I’m in the right place. New York has been great, and it will be a fantastic memory looking back after I’ve moved on to whatever comes next.

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*I ate lunch at Five Guys burgers today, this is a sampling of what crossed my mind and a peek at the circus that is my brain.*

  • First off, I love Five Guys. “All the Way” and “Cajun style” are basically what I hoped “Animal Style” would be. Look inside your fridge, do you have thousand island dressing and Kraft singles? If yes, then you are equipped to make a “double double” in the comfort of your own home and yours will probably taste better than In N’ Out’s anyway.
  • At anything resembling fast food, “cheese” means American, even at Five Guys. Since American is to cheese what Ketchup is to sauce, I like to skip the slop and order a basic hamburger, that way I pocket a little extra change and I feel like I’m being health-conscious.
  • The above bullet point should not be taken to mean that I do not put ketchup on my burgers. There are two, and only two, acceptable uses for Ketchup: on a burger with mayo or on a hot dog with mustard.
  • Five Guys at lunchtime isn’t the most organic place to be reading the chapter in Bossypants where Tina Fey talks about breastfeeding.
  • Speaking of breastfeeding, I’m for it but would never suggest that a woman switch off of formula. Unlike male circumcision, I’m for it and if you’re not then you’re a hippie communist.
  • There’s a moment in every Five Guys patron’s life when they learn that the “little” burgers are still enormous. Having already passed through that veil I enjoy watching the light turn on in others. Today it was a cute blonde German girl who unwrapped the foil and nearly screamed, “Woah, this is NOT “little””
  • In a similar vein, a “little” burger and “small” fries at Five Guys is still enough to feed a village of sub-Saharan Africans. I sometimes wish that the dining experience at Five Guys (hereafter referred to as 5G) was more like True Aggie Night at USU. Meaning: if you arrive alone you will be paired up with a complete stranger to share fries with.
  • Speaking of fries, I don’t often eat fries but when I do, I prefer Cajun. And every time, without fail, I forget just how spicy they are after you’ve eaten what would be 5 FDA servings (a small order). Stay hungry my friends.
  • I make a mess out of myself when I eat hand food (hand food = food not eaten with silverware). For that reason I rarely patronize 5G with members of the opposite sex and when I do, it’s only with someone with whom I’ve been married for at least 6 years. Even when alone I try to find a secluded space in the corner where I can comfortably eat my food without worrying about what my face looks like. You know that quintessential image of a baby eating spaghetti? It’s like that. (Sidenote* why is it necessary to feed a baby spaghetti? We’ve all done it, will do it and have seen it done. Why? Spoiler alert, THEY WILL MAKE A MESS!) Where was I, oh yes, my food cave. So after barricading myself in a corner I forget how spicy the fries are (as mentioned above) and have to get up at least 4 times to refill my water and I always, always, always, underestimate how much ketchup I’ll need for my fries (doesn’t count as a 3rd use). What’s more, my water and ketchup never seem to run out at the same time and (as mentioned before) I lack culinary foresight, meaning I have to walk past the cute german tourists at least 8 times covered in sauce and cayenne pepper.
  • Also, after eating Cajun fries I try not to touch anything of remote value until I’ve washed my hands at least 3 times.
  • This quote is brilliant: “One of the best-kept secrets of “country life” is that people accidentally crush their own pets a lot.” — Tina Fey.
  • Also this one: “Trying to force Country Folk to love the Big City is like telling your gay cousin, ‘You just haven’t met the right girl yet.’ They don’t like big cities. It’s okay. It’s natural. They were born that way.” — Tina Fey.
  • Any dining establishment that offers a complimentary snack item gets extra points in my book. When that snack item is peanuts, you get double points. For those of you keeping score at home, 5G is about 349 away from an extra life.
  • I love when prices are set to include all the fixins. I would so much rather pay $6.50 for a burger with everything than $6 plus 50 cents for the add-ons. I feel like going “all the way” at 5G is their way of saying “We appreciate customers who enjoy a good burger, if you’re going to be picky then we just make more money.” After working in the food industry myself, I appreciate squeezing a higher profit-margin out of the culinary challenged.
  • That reminds me of working at Great Harvest, people would say “Hi, can I get a Reuben, but with Turkey?” I would answer, “No, actually you can’t, but if you’d like I can make you a turkey sandwich on Rye.” That look of confusion was worth the wasted 15 seconds. It’s a matter of principle.
  • New York’s Diamond District is essentially one city block, 47th street between 5th and 6th avenues. It’s marked by diamond shaped street lamps at either end of the street. Despite it’s size it’s a no-man’s land and whenever I walk down it I can’t help but feel that if I was shot dead in the middle of street in broad daylight the killer would walk. I get my hair cut there, it’s fantastic.
  • Eu não sei por que, mas comendo um hamburger no 5G me faz pensar em português.
  • Going back to the subject of taking girls out to eat, I have this down to a science. For a first date you either go Chinese or Italian. If Italian, order the short pastas like rigatoni, tortelini or ravioli in lieu of the linguinis and spaghettis. These are easily forkable to avoid unwanted sauce splashing. Chinese is the same reason, everything comes in easy to fork, bite size pieces. For a second date, Indian food. Why? Because if she doesn’t like Indian than you don’t have to bother taking her out on a third date. By the third date it doesn’t really matter because if you’re not knocking on the door of relationship-land then you’re just throwing good money down the drain. “Buying dinner for someone else’s wife” as the boys in the yard liked to say. What yard? I honestly have no idea.
  • I did actually take a girl to 5G once. We bailed out early on a boring wedding reception and let me tell you, there are few things hotter than a girl eating cajun fries in a black dress. I would’ve married her, but she ditched me and left the country instead. I’m sure the boys in the yard would have a thing or two to say about that. She was an annoying-funny feminist, just like Tina Fey. My brain is kind of overloading on the connections right now.

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I didn’t want it to come to this. I had hoped that I could just enjoy the USU victory from afar, read about some of the Aggie shenanigans and then enjoy my Thanksgiving (#SixServingsAndAMovie). I knew that Wood’s Stock was due for a rant but USU/BYU? Too subjective, to biased, to pointless to anyone that doesn’t attend either USU or BYU.

But, I can not resists. The coverage simply will not go away. Recently, news breaks that USU President Stan Albrecth and USU AD Scott Barnes have issued an apology, adding one more log to the fire of vitriolic hyperbole spewing across internet comment boards and facebook profiles. The same tired diatribe (Aggies are just mad because they couldn’t get in to BYU. I breastfed until I was 7) that we hear year after year is, right now, making it’s ugly rounds at dinner tables, church functions, parks and of course, the world wide web.

First things first, Stan’s apology means nothing. It’s his job to be diplomatic, to shake hands, to make speaches, and to issue apologies. Likewise, it’s the student’s job to make the opposing team’s visit to the Spectrum as nightmarish as possible.

To be clearer, I appreciate Mr. Albrecht’s (one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet) decorum and tact in handling this issue. As an institution it was the right decision. I also support the students for using every available weapon in their wheelhouse to torment the star player of BYU’s men’s basketball team. No insult is off limits, no act is to vile (as long as it does not disrupt the game i.e. dumping buckets of blood Carrie-style from the rafters).

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Last season Brandon Davies was suspended from the team for having sex. With a girl. For the uninitiated, BYU is a private school that espouses an Honor Code that forbids — among other things and on pain of punitive academic measures — unwed sexual relations.

USU students, during their most recent matchup with the Cougars, focused their taunts on this specific aspect of the BYU men’s basketball team, chanting things like “Pull Out Davies” while the player was shooting free-throws. A host of BYU fans — and some Aggies, shame on you 2011-2012 Statesman Staff — cried foul, leading to the aforementioned institutionalized apology.

The most common defense I’m hearing from the Cross the Line school is something along the lines of “It’s inappropriate to directly and personally attack a player” and more specifically “for doing something that is done in universities across the country.” By that they mean, having sex. There’s also the cries of “lewdness” and “vulgarity” which, let’s face it Utahns, telling a man that’s had sex that he’s had sex is hardly lewd, much like how it’s no insult to say that a dead man…is dead. Also, the actual language used would hardly scratch the surface of being classified “adult” there’s much more profane ways they could have gotten the message across.

Yes, university students have sex. The kicker, however, is that at BYU university students are not allowed to have sex. In my humble and (admittedly) heartless opinion, by choosing to attend that school you not only pledge to live by the honor code, but you also take upon yourself the unwanted consequences (academic, physical, social) of breaking said honor code. In a similar vein, by being a member of the basketball team you get the good (fame, cheerleaders) with the bad (ridicule, public scorn).

There are players on USU’s team that have had pre-marital sex. Would it have been “beyond human decency” for the Cougar fans to chant and wave signs that said as much? No. Why? Because:
A) our students are free to have as much sex as they want — as well as grow facial hair, be under the same roof of a female regardless of t.o.d., and receive an education that makes them confront and challenge their ideas and beliefs — and
B) Because Utah State won the game.

That’s what this is about. Had BYU won, the Internet would have been a storm of Joshua-esque “Our God is greater than your’s” boasting and scoffing at the Aggie fans’ foolish attempts to distract Davies with their sad little signs. However, because USU won the personal attacks and taunting have the appearance of kicking someone while they’re down. Like doing a victory dance after carpet-bombing an indigenous people.

This is sports people. Love it or loathe it we all know the rules of the game. One team’s fans will always clash with that of their opponent and the only thing that matters is the score at the end. All’s fair in love, war, and collegiate athletics and as many Aggies will happily point out, if you’re not willing to take the ridicule for breaking the Honor Code you have two choices. Don’t break it, or don’t go to a school with an honor code.

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